Special Education

As a parent, you know what is best for your child. Knowledge of your child’s special education rights will best ensure that their unique needs are met. It is important to be aware of laws, regulations, and school procedures impacting your child’s access to the general curriculum prescribed by the school district. This guide will provide you with the essential knowledge and tools to optimize your child’s educational opportunities. Each child is different and you may want to consult an attorney to ensure that your child’s educational requirements are properly assessed and fully met.

What is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was enacted by Congress in 1975 as the Education for All Handicapped Children Act. This legislation is the foundation for the imposition upon Boards of Education of legal obligations regarding special education. IDEA requires that “all children with disabilities have available a free appropriate public education (FAPE) that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living…”[1]

IDEA defines FAPE as “free appropriate public education,”  which means special education and related services that:

  1. have been provided at public expense, under public supervision and direction, and without charge;
  2. meet the standards of the State educational agency;
  3.  include an appropriate preschool, elementary school, or secondary school education in the State involved; and
  4. are provided in conformity with the individualized education program.

IDEA provides that your public school district, referred to in IDEA as the local education agency (LEA), be responsible for ensuring that each child with a disability within their district receives special education and related services designed to meet their unique individual needs. In view of the varying needs of each child impaired by a disability, no specific standard is established to determine if the school district is providing an “appropriate” education.

The word “free” means that the cost of providing special education and related services is the responsibility of the public school district in which the child resides and cannot be passed along to a child’s parent. FAPE is an unqualified right and a school district will not be excused because of expenses from providing specific special education needs to a particular child.

Section 504 is a civil rights statute that protects the rights of persons with disabilities participating in programs and activities, such as public schools, that receive federal financial assistance. While your child’s disability may not be covered under the IDEA, it may be covered under Section 504 of another federal law, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Contact an Experienced Education Law Attorney

Our attorneys have years of experience representing education law clients in the states of New York and Connecticut. With offices located in New York City and Westport, we strive to provide large firm service while maintaining the small firm attention and accountability you deserve.  us today for assistance with your special education questions. Call 212-682-5700 for our New York offices or 203-221-3100 for our Connecticut office.


[1] 20 U.S.C.A. §1400(d).
[2] Board of Education of Hendrick Hudson Central School District v. Rowley, 458 U.S. 176 (1982).